Centre of book gravity

In 2017, Belarus celebrates 500th anniversary of national book printing
By Lyudmila Ivanova

Polotsk’s Frantsisk Skorina founded a printing house in Prague 500 years ago, releasing the first printed Belarusian book on August 6th, 1517: the Psalter. It’s no surprise that Belarus wishes to be chosen as World Book Capital in 2017: a title annually selected by a committee comprising representatives from UNESCO, the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Booksellers Federation (IBF) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Madrid was the first city to be awarded this honorary title, in 2001, with Yerevan chosen in 2012 and Bangkok in 2013.

Applicant cities submit a prospective programme of events, so Litaratura i Mastatstva (Literature and Arts) newspaper recently organised a round table discussion, to allow ideas to be shared. Meeting at the Press House, Ales Susha, the Deputy Director of the National Library (one of the initiators) noted that Minsk would be a great venue for the global holiday, being ready to welcome all tourists. Of course, the most important aspect is for the host city to demonstrate a love of book culture and of reading, so every citizen has a role to play.

Natalia Zaderkovskaya, of the Culture Ministry’s Department for Culture Institutions and Folk Art, tells us that a working group has been set up to collate proposals for events, with the regions being encouraged to contribute. The Chairman of the Belarusian Culture Fund, Vladimir Gilep, adds that Minsk’s application for the title of World Book Capital has been included in the UNESCO plan for 2014.

Naturally, competition for the honour is fierce, so public organisations and state institutions are eager to help with the bid. All agree that Minsk could be the perfect venue for the world book holiday in 2017.
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